The Afrikan Poetry Theatre, Inc., is a non-profit organization that provides a range of cultural, educational, recreational and social development programs.
The Afrikan Poetry Theatre Ensemble was the forerunner to the cultural center, The Afrikan Poetry Theatre. It was an aggregation of poets, singers and musicians, that organized in 1976 to bring conscious raising lyrics in their songs, exciting sounds of Jazz, funk and African rhythms, and the “Power of The Word” in their poetry. The group was founded and organized by John Watusi Branch, and the late Yusef Waliyaya, both poets and cultural workers associated with the “East” Cultural center, and its school Uhuru Sasa (Freedom Now) in Brooklyn, NY in the early 1970’s. The APT Ensemble as it was referred to performed throughout the communities of the greater New York area, in schools, community centers, prisons, senior citizen centers, disco’s, outdoor concerts, etc. The APT Ensemble continued throughout the opening and development of the permanent center and recorded an album titled “Kuulula I Azania” (Free South Africa) in 1985, and a year later recorded “Shaka Zulu Live”.
In 1977 the Afrikan Poetry Theatre became a not for profit organization .
The permanent center was opened in 1978 and was located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica, NY.
The center was located in the basement of the building. The Center was located there for one year where we presented poetry readings and workshops, and lectures on African history, etc. We presented Dr. Yosef ben-Jochanan, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Rev. Herbert Daughtry and many others for the first time to a Queens audience
In 1979 the Theatre moved to its present location where the programs started to grow and develop. Soon youth programs were added, Jazz and African music concerts, films, weekend cultural classes, musical instruction for youth, and a book and tape research center, the opening of our art gallery, and several other programs that community individuals presented to us and we introduced to the public.
In 1987 as a result of the executive director’s travels to West Africa, The Afrikan Poetry Theatre Started its’ “Journey To The Motherland” tours, cultural and educational tours, which has re-connected hundreds of people to the motherland. In 1991 the theatre began it’s Afriquest program that organized 4 week educational programs in Ghana, West Africa for high school and college students. APT has also adopted a village in the Akuapem area of Ghana where the executive director has been enstooled, and has encouraged others such as Paul Knox (who is also enstooled) and his wife Bernita to contribute to the development of that community, bringing electricity, water, computers, supplies, etc. The Afrikan Poetry Theatre is also a co-founder of FESTAM, an international music and arts festival that takes place in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. Where it is responsible for bringing to Senegal Jazz, Reggae, Rap and Gospel artists, symposium participants and tourists to participate.
Our Summer Youth Employment Program is one that we are very proud of, as we have been able to put 500 youth
to work each summer for the past 11 years. In addition our Summer Children’s Cultural workshops have attracted youth groups, and day camps from all over the city.
The Afrikan Poetry Theatre has a small paid staff and large, very loyal, long time volunteer staff that has been very effective in planning a broad multidiscipline program for the community.
The Afrikan Poetry Theatre is partially funded by public and private grants, membership and contributions from
community and supporters, and money raised through program and class fees, sales of items and rental of our
The Center For Culture, The Afrikan Poetry Theatre is a cultural resource for the city of New York, where you can always get information on speakers, performers and how to do, where to go in this city. The Afrikan Poetry Theatre is looking towards the future for the continued development of this institution and the development of the communities we serve.